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Let's play a much stuff can Mrs. White pack into a quarter without going insane?

Hi everyone :)

This past quarter has been the craziest time I think ever in my teaching career. As someone who thrives on insanity, that is saying something. I hope everyone has been doing well, and I am back (for now) to share some of the things we have been doing in my classroom!

Oh, what's new with me? Not much...just directing middle schoolers tackling a Shakespearean play
The cast of "A Midsummer Night's Midterm"
, trying to get a new sound system for our stage, building sets and costumes and whatever else pops up (including the sound system shorting out 5 minutes before our last show), NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo 2K14
, starting a new venture in theatre with some friends, prepping for my evaluation, teaching, auditioning for a mini-theatre adventure, cleaning my house, battling mice, teaching, working on curriculum writing with other LA teachers, hosting Thanksgiving for the first know, the usual. :)

Isn't that how it always goes for teachers? We all have busy seasons, especially if you have extracurricular duties like sports and the arts. I like to think of it like doing P90X, just without the killer abs at the end. I've never done P90X, but I do watch the infomercials when I can't sleep, so that counts, right?

But seriously, I LOVE directing drama, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am a controlling person, so when I feel like I can't hold onto all of my puppet strings easily I feel incredibly guilty, and my anxiety starts to overwhelm me. Blogging and all of this has fallen by the wayside, because I felt that it wasn't a "requirement" just something I enjoy doing and sharing with people. And because it's something I do for fun, I let it slip away when things got busy, but no more! I am declaring today that I am done putting aside my own passions for my job. I just need to let go in some places and take back control of my own life. :)

So here's what we've been doing in class. While I've been virtually "gone" my students have become the following:

Comma Magnets:
"I just met you, and this is crazy,
but I sense a magnetic attraction,
so let's hang out together, maybe?
Well, ok!"
Each time we "master" a grammar lesson, I've been making stickers and giving them to them for their writer's notebooks like merit badges. The purple one is for Comma Magnets, I already apologized to them, because I think I was delirious when I wrote it. I thought it was funny at the time!

Note: I started this blog post last weekend, and then came down with the flu (really nasty, yuck!), so I'm just jumping back into it now!

Ok, so to teach each lesson, I used a picture book as a model and went from there. I believe when I last blogged, we had used "When I Was Little" and "Memoirs of a Hamster" for AAAWWUBBIS words and FANBOYS.

I followed the same format as I did for the last two comma lessons. I had a mentor sentence, students discussed what they noticed about them, and we took notes.

Students then imitated these model sentences first as a class, and then on their own. I did not have them search for them in books, mostly because of the time it takes. However, they have been noticing them and finding them on their own, which is great to see. I love that they have an awareness of these different types of commas, and can notice them in their books and other writing!

Then, they have a writing assignment based on the model text, and we do an express lane edit. I have some examples of the basket commas lesson below. The anchor charts for these three will be up as a set soon on TpT!

For Serial Commas, we used, "My Brother Dan's Delicious" by Steven Layne, which has always been one of my favorites when we taught persuasive writing. Students wrote their own "Don't Eat Me Monologues" in preparation for our argumentative paper they are going to workshop this quarter.

For Basket Commas, we used, "I Wanna Iguana", and students wrote "text" style letters back and forth, where we focused on counterarguments from a parent or authority figure.

Finally, for Comma Magnets, we used, "Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School". For this one, students wrote a series of at least five letters, with no response, giving reasons for why something was unfair. I had them write as someone fictional to make it more lighthearted. They could choose to be an animal, food, or an inanimate object. 

As a "final" for this quarter, students chose one of their three mini argument pieces for workshop. We begin that next week. Then, they will be asked to identify sentences with certain types of commas as a final assessment!

I have to say that I am incredibly pleased with using the grammar invitations this year in class. I am SO thankful that I went and saw Jeff Anderson, and I see a change in the way my students think about their writing and recognize how grammar works.

Next quarter we will start a new focus, most likely phrases and clauses along with types of sentences!

I leave you with, some close reading. 8th graders read "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" and did a close reading with both...

My 7th Graders read "Rikki Tikki Tavi" and then I found this awesome satirical article that was begging to be close read as a non-fiction piece. If you use it, copy and paste it into a word document, as there are some pretty inappropriate ads on this page! This was a great closing and assessment for students. I ended up creating an assessment on mastery connect for this article, and they could use their notebooks to help answer the questions. This was a great way to check and see if they had correctly identified the main idea, details, and evidence/facts. If you use Mastery Connect, you can check it out here!

I'm impressed with their improvement this year with close reading, since many of them had never done it before this year.

I shared this article on my FB page the other day, and while I found it funny, I was initially horrified! Before reading the article I immediately thought, "Who in their right mind would find close reading ineffective?" I think everyone knows that is my go to strategy, what's yours? 

Two weeks until Christmas Break!


  1. I have missed your posts! Thanks for the update. Need to get into Jeff Anderson. Which resource of his do you most recommend - Mechanically Inclined or something else? A seminar isn't possible for me - too far away - but I love my professional books!

    1. I would definitely say start with Mechanically Inclined. Everyday Editing is great too, but I think the other one is more comprehensive!

  2. Hi! I purchased your TPT resources you created from his book, but am confused how you explained the interrupters as appositives, asides, parentheticals, and details. Could you clarify?

    1. Hello! Great question!

      We went through and discussed what different types of nonessential information would be. So for example, the appositive we discussed how it would be restating information, or how we give definitions in context clues. The class, Science, was extremely boring to her. The nonessential information there gives more information about the word "Class".

      For asides, we discussed how it was something that no one else would probably hear, or maybe something in your head. My best friend, for now, was waiting for me at the mall.

      For parentheticals, that was basically anything that could be listed in parentheses, which you could also put inside basket commas. "My mom (the doctor) wanted me to get an x-ray", could become "My mom, the doctor, wanted me to get an x-ray."

      Details we explained as additional information about the subject. For example: My dog, five and a half pounds of fluff, tore through the house.

      For the examples listed on that next page, we also went through and decided what type of nonessential information it was. In some cases it was more than one.

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!! :)

  3. Yes, thanks so much!


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Thanks for stopping by! JW

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